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Four faculty named SUNY Distinguished Professors

SUNY Distinguished Professor medal.


Published March 28, 2022


Four UB faculty members have been appointed to the rank of SUNY Distinguished Professor, the highest faculty achievement in the SUNY system.

The honor recognizes innovative research and teaching, as well as extraordinary community service. It also spotlights the international prominence of the faculty members in their respective fields.

The rank of distinguished professor is an order above full professorship and has three co-equal designations: distinguished professor, distinguished service professor and distinguished teaching professor.

Three faculty members were named distinguished professors in recognition of their academic achievements: R. Lorraine Collins, professor in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior and associate dean for research, School of Public Health and Health Professions; Luis A. Colón, A. Conger Goodyear Professor in the Department of Chemistry and associate dean for inclusive excellence, College of Arts and Science; and Gil I. Wolfe, UB Distinguished Professor and Irvin and Rosemary Smith Chair of the Department of Neurology, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The distinguished service professorship was granted to Steven D. Schwaitzberg, professor and chair of the Department of Surgery, Jacobs School. The professorship honors and recognizes extraordinary service, not only at the campus and SUNY, but also within the local community and at the regional and state levels. Many also have contributed at the national and international levels.

The four were appointed to the distinguished professor ranks by the SUNY Board of Trustees at its meeting on March 8.

UB’s newest SUNY Distinguished Professors:

R. Lorraine Collins.

R. Lorraine Collins is a nationally and internationally renowned expert in the study of addictive behaviors. Since the 1980s, she has contributed foundational research on cognitive and behavioral approaches to the conceptualization, prevention and treatment of addictive behaviors. She is particularly interested in alcohol and cannabis use, especially in emerging and young adults, as well as psychosocial factors — including gender and socio economic status — in substance use. Collins also pioneered the use of technology (e.g., smartphones, internet) for assessment and intervention.

In 2016, Collins was named to a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine ad hoc committee that reviewed the health effects of cannabis. In 2018, she was appointed to a working group created by then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that was tasked with drafting legislation to regulate the adult-use of cannabis in New York State. The resulting legislation was signed into law in March 2021.

A fellow of the American Psychological Association’s Society of Addictions Psychology (Division 50) and prolific scholar, Collins has received funding from the National Institutes of Health for nearly 30 years. She has published peer-reviewed articles in such respected journals as Addiction, the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, and Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.

She has been invited to share her expertise at scientific meetings and conferences across the state, nation and world. She also has served on multiple review and advisory committees at the National Institutes of Health.

Collins is an outstanding mentor to doctoral students and early-career investigators. From 2000-19, she served as co-director of the postdoctoral training program in UB’s Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions — the longest-running T32 at UB. She was integral to securing the grant and its continued funding. In 2021, she received UB’s Distinguished Postdoc Mentor Award.

Luis colon.

Luis A. Colón is an expert in analytical chemistry. He is recognized internationally for his influential contributions to separation science and his far-reaching efforts to advance equity in higher education.

Colón is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry.

He leads a team in developing techniques and technologies for separating chemicals from one another, which is crucial for chemical analysis. This work, including highly impactful discoveries in liquid chromatography, supports advancements in environmental, biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences. He holds eight patents, has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and has been recognized nationally with various accolades in his field.

Colón is also celebrated for his work as a mentor and higher education reformer. In 2015, he was named by President Barack Obama as a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

At UB, Colón is founder of the Institute for Strategic Enhancement of Educational Diversity (iSEED); the initial co-leader of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning; and a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Race. He has mentored about 60 PhD and master’s students, including many from underrepresented groups.

Among Colón’s proudest accomplishments is the creation of a program that has brought dozens of undergraduates from Puerto Rico to UB to do summer research since the 1990s. Many of these students later returned to UB for graduate school. This effort, which Colón developed in partnership with his alma mater, the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey, has been supported through funds from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Sloan Foundation.

Steven Schwaitzberg.

Steven Schwaitzberg’s clinical, academic and research interests focus on sophisticated device development and simulation with novel, minimally invasive surgical technology. He is a leader in video/computer technology in the operating room, and has a broad influence on the global surgical community as well as at UB, where he has led development of surgical skills and robotic surgery laboratories in the Jacobs School.

A prolific researcher, Schwaitzberg has been the site principal investigator for numerous industry-sponsored clinical trials and co-PI on NIH and Department of Defense grants. Recently, he served as a co-investigator on an NIH grant to explore the use of virtual simulators in laparoscopy surgery training and credentialing. He also shares his expertise in endoscopic surgery as a collaborator on numerous grants. He holds four patents for his technical device development.

Schwaitzberg has authored 120 original research papers, 58 clinical reviews, 30 clinical case reports and 27 book chapters, many as first or senior author. In addition to his journal publications, he has edited four books and published educational programs on digital and visual media.

A sought-after speaker, he has delivered 58 invited national presentations and keynote addresses, as well as 26 invited international presentations and keynote addresses.

Schwaitzberg’s numerous awards include a Distinguished Service Award from the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, a Health Policy Scholar Award from the American College of Surgeons (ACS), and being named a Master Educator in Surgery by the ACS; a teaching video he created for surgeons was awarded a Computerworld/National Smithsonian 21st Century Laurette Award for use of technology to produce beneficial changes for society.

Dr. Gil Wolfe.

An internationally renowned leader in neuromuscular neurology, Gil Wolfe has made numerous seminal discoveries impacting the study and clinical care of neuromuscular disorders, particularly myasthenia gravis, the most common disorder of neuromuscular transmission, the mechanism by which motor nerve signals are transmitted to muscle to create movement. His research interests also include idiopathic and immune-mediated peripheral neuropathies.

Wolfe’s work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He served as clinical chair on a landmark $8 million multicenter international study, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, that confirmed the benefits of surgically removing the thymus gland over medical intervention alone in patients with generalized myasthenia gravis.

Throughout his career, he has served as a principal investigator or co-investigator on more than 45 clinical trials. Currently, he is conducting clinical trials funded by NeuroNEXT — a multicenter consortium supported by the NIH — and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), in addition to four industry-sponsored trials evaluating new pharmaceutical treatments for myasthenia gravis.

Wolfe has published 148 peer-reviewed articles, as well as 25 book chapters and 45 editorials, in such high-impact publications as the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet Neurology, JAMA, Neurology, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Annals of Neurology and Muscle & Nerve.

In 2015, he was honored as the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation’s Doctor of the Year. In 2018, he received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities and, two years later, the Certificate of Recognition for Distinguished Service from the New York State Governor’s Executive Chamber.

Over the years, he has been designated a top doctor by U.S. News and World Report, The Leading Physicians of the World and other organizations.